We’ve heard a rumor – that in the Pacific Northwest – it rains a lot. Right now, I’m sitting in my cozy chair right next to the window, looking over a flat lake, with blue sky, no wind, and about a thousand birds, probably 10 + varieties. It feels like fall, but the Christmas Tree in the corner reminds me that it is near Winter.
One thing I have seen, this being our 3rd run at winter on the lake near the ocean – is that we have turned a corner in our observation. This morning, I look out at the Juncos and can quickly see which ones are male and female. I can walk through the forest and say hello to the Fox Sparrow and not have the need to capture a first photo, run to the Sibley book, enter into the iBird app the find. This morning I watch the Juncos and see the males scooting each other out of the feed. The females preferring the tree branches to the deck floor. I catch the reflection of Bufflehead’s large white spot on their heads. The Hooded Merganser in competition swims over to show off his hood as well.
I have seen this in our schooling, following along the learning progression. The excitement and “hard” of things being new. Introduced. Sorted, recorded, remembered. We have moved on to the familiar. Digging deeper. Seeing more. Observations. Levels of learning. Rich conversations. Casual conversations.
As a part of the Handbook of Nature Study’s Outdoor Hour challenges for December, she invited walk outside and observe:
We have studied the buds of trees and bushes in the previous years. It is a most interesting study if you haven’t looked closely. Slice a bud off of a branch, slice it into thin layers. Amazing little creations! This year, we’ve only had about a week of hard rain, so the grass is still needing mowed. In the Pacific Northwest – we have green grass in the winter. It isn’t in a heavy growing season, but it is quite beautiful. For our preparation for winter, we gave it a good last (hopefully) mow, cleaning up the downed limbs from the last storm, mowing all of the leaves from the Red Alders. Jon, the 10 year old, has a thing about mowing. He had his own business this summer, and mows our entire property as well. Nate, shown above, was just putting the lawn mower back after a good clean up, tune up, fuel stabelizer, etc. We had mower problems in the spring, so the boys got quite the education on how to repair them. Awesome.
We took a walk in our side forest to see what the last storm had done (90 mph gusts). We have several downed large limbs. As part of our fitness challenge this month, we are trying to spend 30 minutes outside per day. As part of our Henry David Thoreau study, we were looking for a place to set up a camp that would last the year. I wish I could record some of these conversations for y’all.
The spring is low, but it is running. It branches out into three streams that go to the lake.
There were a lot of Elk Tracks in the mud, huge hoofs. Hard to photograph the size! We have raccoons and lake otters on our shores. The neighbor’s dog got into a porcupine. She saved the quills for us to look at, we need to go over and pick those up. We have quite a few beavers here at the lake, however, I have not seen sign of them on our end of the lake.
There were a lot of tiny animals in the water, little fish, moving “things”. I see a water study coming up if the storms hold off! With the size of the lake, we do not have a lot of Pond type animals – (3.5 miles long 1+ mile wide) – the water is not calm enough.
We have a crawdad trap going full time. Jon takes his canoe out to check the traps almost every day. However, during the last storm the trap disappeared.
TaDa! he found it, on the other side of this clump of bushes, the dirt is caved out, and it washed into that little cave. Wonder if it is an animal hole for the lake otter?
Robins, Varied Thrush, White and Yellow Crowned Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, Wrens, Oregon Juncos, Warblers, Stellar Jays, and starlings are all quite numerous in the yard right now. I want to set up a bird blind of sorts to sit and watch them in the forest.
I thought I’d share a shot of how low the lake is, When it rains, it comes up to the grass on the bank, when it storms, it comes level with the yard, and we have to pull the boats up. When the waves crash, it fills the sandbox and turns it into a kiddie pool. So when I show you waves crashing as high as the top of the boathouse next week – you’ll be impressed right?
I have a few more that I took, but I’ll let you get on with your morning. We have enjoyed being observant of the changes month to month in the yard. Knowing when animals come and go, seeing the changes in the plants, seeing the earth make ready for the storms. Greeting all of our migratory birds. We’ve been told the people who rented this house before us never kept the blinds open. We’ve seen many a house on the lake that have never had the blinds up. I just can’t imagine not soaking it all in! I encourage you, even in your small neighborhood, to put out a bird feeder and keep those blinds open!